I have earned the right

to call myself a “crip”

and to do so with pride

and with conviction

–conviction of my own personal power

as a disabled woman, as a disabled activist

who is not afraid of peeling off the layers of our painful history

and taking the word crip as a symbol of self-love,

as a symbol of survival.

 

To me, the word crip

is a badge of honor –a word used by those

who have the balls to say

“No, I will not be your inspiration.”

“No, you cannot decide for me.”

“No, you do not own my body.”

“No, you cannot get away with violating the rights of disabled people.”

And “Yes. Disabled people are people.”

“Yes, our lives have worth that is not necessarily attached

to the social context of able-bodied defined success,

but always attached to our natural birth given value

as human beings.

 

The word crip means all that, and more.

It is a word reflective of pride.

Not shame.

And to me, it is a shame

that the word crip is seen by some in the disability community

as an offensive word, a bad word, a word

that demeans the definition of our existence as disabled people.

 

I embrace the word crip

as a word of self-love,

a word of reconciliation as we accept ourselves

and recognize that our lives are not broken –and these are crip truths spoken

from the lips of those

for whom disability has become a culture of shared struggles

and battles we have won while baring our scars

and our raw, naked truths, no longer

from a perspective of fear and shame,

but from the reflection of our-selves

as we look for the greatness in each other,

and we find the beauty and the strength that is part of who we are

no matter who we are

as disabled people.

 

Yes, crip

is a word of power,

and NEVER make the mistake of thinking otherwise.

Never assume that those who call ourselves crips

are the equivalent of those who use the “n” word

as a symbol of oppression.

 

But if you still insist, please realize

that the only things you might truthfully find

the word crip and the “n” word could have in common

is

that both groups have been oppressed

and both groups are still oppressed

and all of us are in this together

although sometimes we feel so far apart, so far away

and so divided when we should all be united

no matter what we choose to call ourselves.

 

 

Still, those who continue to suggest

that the “n” word is the same as crip,

touch a  nerve in me

because as a self-defined crip, I see crip as

RISING FROM VICTIM TO SURVIVOR

and learning to be proud of our history and the legacy of our advocacy.

It means

destroying the pillars of oppression that have caged our lives

and building murals of activism as we lift each other up

and paint our stories…. the graffiti of our disabled lives

knowing that when we say the words “disabled lives” we do so knowing the force

of our collective power, and owning the responsibility of sharing such power

with those who have not yet touched

the dermis and epidermis of self-love

which would allow them to understand

that the word crip is born from the womb of creative rebellion

and crip resistance–Born from the throbbing artery of activism

that allowed us to rip the word cripple apart

into shreds of social justice that re-knit themselves

and transform

back to our old-selves with a renewed sense of hope,

a renewed sense of understanding about what disability pride really means

because disability pride

comes from our ability to rise above our painful past

but never forgetting it existed,

never disregarding the fact

that because of those who call ourselves crips,

you have the choice, as a disabled person,

to not call yourself one.

 

So, if you must, in your erroneous assumptions,

have to compare the word crip  to another word,

to another movement, then please,

compare us to the word “queer” because like queer, the word crip is a word

very dear to the word pride.

 

Crip is a word that speaks about our history without pity,

but without denying the pity forced upon our lives.

Crip is a word that shares the scars of our activism

because those of us who refer to ourselves as crips

are, usually, the ones who’ve been in the frontlines

fighting for the basic rights of other disabled people,

baring our truths and speaking up

because being a crip makes us have a whip for a tongue

and makes us fearless in front of ableism.

 

I embrace the word crip

becauseI’ve been around too many other crips

whose disability pride rubbed off on me

and whose undeniable strength taught me to see

that all of us have our own

undeniable strength, our own

undeniable greatness.

 

In the name of Love,

and in the name of activism,

I want you to know

that when crips use the word crip, it usually represents pride….

but when we use the word “cripple” as raw, and as wrong as it may sound,

it is spoken, owning the pain it has caused, owning the scars

and never forgetting

those who came before us  who paved the road

of our independent living

and our ability to be free even though we’re still not fully free.

When we use the word cripple, we are not usually defining ourselves

or each other as much as we are emphasizing the word

as a label that once imprisoned us, and one

that makes the word crip

become like kryptonite

in the face of ableist lies,

in the face of those who negate our power.

 

And so, after all that,

in this, (yes, very long) poem,

I ask

that those of you disabled people

who live perfect lives,

without ever having faced a single struggle….. those of you who have no idea what oppression is about,

those of you

whose differences have never been judged,

feared, rejected, teased, medicalized,

those of you whose disabled bodies have never depended upon able-bodied help

for anything in your entire lives,

those of you who still think you can afford to judge…yes, those of you

may cast

the first

stone.

 

 

 

#crippride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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